The key to a great jumping performance is consistency. Consistency in the approach begins in the first two to three strides of the approach run-up. The horizontal jumps approach has the same goal as any short sprint race: to accelerate as long as possible and to hold maximum velocity. I plan on talking about the horizontal jumps approach by breaking the run down to three sections: the Drive Phase, the Transition, and the Last Four Steps.
PHASE 1: DRIVE PHASE
Coaches should give as much attention in their training to the first two to three steps of the approach as they do the takeoff. Most errors in the takeoff, and the jump as a whole, are a direct result of an inconsistent drive phase. The drive phase should be as close as possible to the start of 100m races. To teach a consistent approach, coaches should always remind athletes to sprint down the runway. The more the drive phase of an approach is related to the drive phase of a race, the easier it becomes for the athlete to translate proper technique to the runway.
Always teach power first, without being too quick when addressing the first 6 steps of the approach. Power is needed to overcome the body’s inertia. In physics, power is defined as the rate at which work is performed or energy is converted. Therefore, power is an important component of speed. So in fact, the drive is still fast but there is a strength emphasis. I give athletes three key cues to help athletes emphasize being powerful in their drive phase:
I. Big Arms
Teach athletes to focus on aggressive arm swings greater than 90-degrees for the first three to four steps. Big arms help assure the jumper is not running too fast too soon. Remember that the arms and leg should be synched together. So if the arms are long with a full range of motion, then the lower body also has to go through a full range of motion, which will allow for more force application.
II. Head Alignment
In the drive phase, the body is at a 45-degree angle with the ground. Make sure the head is in natural position with the rest of the body, not bent at the neck.
III. Powerful Steps
At this point of the approach, the ground contacts should be longer than the contact times near takeoff. Stride length is more important than the stride frequency in this part of the approach.
DRILLS THAT DEVELOP THE DRIVE PHASE
- Acceleration Development – 3 x 20m, 30m, 40m 1-2 minutes rest between repetitions and 3 minutes rest between sets. You can do this workout six different ways:
- Starting blocks give the athlete something to push from by utilizing the pads.
- 3 Point Starts with two feet and one hand down on the track. This puts the athletes in a good position to drive with proper shin angles and hip placements
- 2 Point Starts or Standing Starts simulate the start of most horizontal approaches
- Resistance Starts with a Bullet Belt, Thera-Band, or Sled. The resistance helps the athlete hit the major position of the 45-degree angle without fear of falling. They can also feel where the foot drives, in relation to the hips, at a slower speed.
- Sled Pulls should be done 6 x 30m with 3 minutes rest between each repetition
- Olympic Lifts – Power Cleans and Snatches. Power clean technique is very similar to the start of an approach run or 100m. Even young athletes should learn how to do these explosive lifts. You can do light weight to focus on speed of the movement.
- Multi-Throws – A good way to introduce Olympic lifts are through medicine ball throws. Medicine ball throws are explosive throws that require triple extension in the hip, knee and ankle joints. Two popular throws are Over Head Back throw and Between Leg Forward throw.
- Box Positives – If coaches lack proper equipment for Olympic lifts or medicine ball throws, then another great way to practice drive phase mechanics are through Box Positives. Box positives are simply jumps from a flat surface onto another flat, but raised, surface. Heights of two-three feet are good for beginners.
PHASE 2: TRANSITION
In the middle of the approach, jumpers begin to transition from driving with horizontal pushes to an upright posture with vertical pushes. The body is at 90-degrees with the ground. At this point, maximum velocity should be attained. Foot contacts should happen directly below the hips. Most difficulties with athletes arise in this transition from the drive phase to the upright position.
Concentrate on the position of the head when transitioning. Allow the head to GRADUALLY come up with the rest of the body. Athletes should be able to feel the rhythm of their approach get faster as they move down the runway. Good front side mechanics should always be taught. Remember, approach mechanics are the exact same as sprint mechanics. Coaches should devote two to three days each week to developing sound approach technique.
DRILLS TO HELP DEVELOP A STRONG MIDDLE SECTION
- Full Approach Rehearsals on the Track – create a simulated board with athletic tape and set up a full approach just as you would on a runway. Full approaches can be used as a speed development or a speed endurance workout, depending on the volume. Speed Development and Speed Endurance training helps athletes develop consistency in their approaches.
- Speed Development
- Example 1: 4-6 x Full Approach Rehearsals with 3 minutes rest between each repetition
- Example 2: 2 x 2 50m @ 80% with 2 minutes rest between each repetition and 4 minutes between each set
- Example 3: 2 x 5 60m @ 80% with 2 minutes rest between each repetition and 5 minutes between each set
- Speed Endurance
- Example 1: 5-8 x Full Approach Rehearsals with 3-5 minutes rest between each repetition
- Example 2: 3 x 150m @ 85-90% with 8 minutes between each repetition
- Example 3: 60m-80m-100m-120m-100m-80m-60m @85-90% with 6 minutes between each repetition
More on Horizontal Jumps: Mechanics of the Jump Approach (part 1)
PHASE 3: THE LAST FOUR STEPS
It is important to put emphasis on the last four steps because this is where a lot of athletes change their rhythm. Good front side mechanics are foot contacts landing underneath the hips with a run at a fast, controllable speed. In both jumps, coaches should teach jumpers to run THROUGH the takeoff and NOT to run TO the takeoff. The last four steps differ significantly between the two horizontal jumps. I will go into a more in-depth explanation below:
- The third-to-last step sets up the last two steps of the long jump. Cue the athletes to push INTO the penultimate by utilizing the third-to-last step. This will enforce speed maintenance through takeoff. A good cue to tell athletes: “Sprint Onto” the penultimate.
- The Penultimate step requires a flat contact with distinct lowering in the hips and a flexed knee and ankle joint. The penultimate contact time takes longer than that of the takeoff contact (think of a long-short contact rhythm).
- Coaches can hear the takeoff as the jumper violently converts horizontal energy to vertical energy.
- Most athletes try to literally jump up at takeoff. They should be taught to bound away from the board, similar to triple jump. You do this by completely pushing off the board, allowing the hips to move past the takeoff foot. An efficient penultimate step creates the vertical component.
- The approach speeds of the horizontal jumps should be very similar, without a violent conversion of energy at takeoff. The goal is to maintain speed through the hop, step and the jump phase, so the takeoff is slightly flatter.
- The main difference between the long jump and triple jump approach is the intensity of the last four steps. Athletes maintain speed through each phase by having an active last four steps. Being active keeps the athlete in sprint form, but relaxed as well so they have speed for the hop, step and jump phases.
- The penultimate step does not require a flat foot because momentum needs to be kept horizontal; only the takeoff step is flat-footed. Some coaches prefer to teach a flat contact the last two steps
DRILLS THAT WORK ON THE LAST FOUR STEPS
- Triple Jump Approach Rehearsals with a Hop Phase Takeoff from LJ Board. This could be a little scary when doing it for the first time, but it helps the athlete practice an active last four steps. Have the jumper come from a full approach and execute a hop phase from a long jump board as if he or she is preparing to triple jump. Make sure the athlete lands safely in the sand pit.
- Long Jump Approach Rehearsals with a Pop-Up. A pop-up is modified takeoff where the athlete does a full approach run, takes off at the long jump board and lands on his or her feet in the sand pit.
- Short Run Triple and Long Jumps from a total of 10-12 steps. This helps put everything together without having to practice full jumps every week.
The largest improvement in the horizontal jumps can come with a consistent and effective approach. Paying sufficient attention to these three phases can greatly improve the chances of success for an athlete in the long and triple jumps. Breaking the run down to the drive phase, transition, and the last four steps makes teaching and coaching the horizontal jumps a much easier process.
Special Thanks To:
Michelle Eisenreich – Director of Men and Women’s Cross Country/Track and Field & Throws Coach at Brown University
Berry Shumpert – Sprints/Hurdles/Jumps Coach at Coastal Carolina University
“Winning Jumps and Pole Vault” by Ed Jacoby, Boo Schexnayder and Tom Tellez Human Kinetics Publishers
Michael Eskind – Jumps and Combined Events Coach at University of Virginia
Tim Springfield – Head Men’s Cross Country and Distance Coach at Brown University
Marc Mangiacotti – Men’s and Women’s Sprints/Hurdles/Relays Coach at Brown University
Adrian Wheatley – Men’s and Women’s Sprints/Hurdles/Relays Coach at University of Virginia
How to Quickly and Easily Fix Common Errors in the Long Jump, High Jump, and Triple Jump.
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